Parents in remote communities often fight to keep their kids enrolled in local schools.
A group in Red Bay, however, are asking the NLESD board of trustees to start busing junior-high students away to L’Anse au Loup this fall.
During this school year, Basque Memorial School in Red Bay had just eight students from K-12, only two of whom were in grade 8. According to one of those students, Brandon Stone, all the students had to share a classroom and a teacher, despite the various age differences.
“There’s not much teacher-student time and it’s kind of hard for the teacher to teach anything, so we’re kind of on our own most of the time,” said Brandon.
“It’s a bit noisy. It’s not the best place to be working, especially during tests and exams… the kindergartener is playing with blocks and making a racket.”
Brandon’s mother, Lynn Stone, is one of the parents who wrote a letter to the NLESD, asking that junior high students be sent to the larger Labrador Straits Academy in L’Anse au Loup. A big concern is the social life of her son.
“The current setup is no good for the students because I think they’re not getting enough socialization and I don’t think being in a classroom with K-6 is very good for anybody.”
“I don’t think that anywhere else in this province anybody would be OK with their little kindergartener starting school in a grade-eight classroom,” said Stone.
She hopes Brandon, if he is bused to L’Anse au Loup 45 minutes away, will finally be able to participate in extra-curricular activities.
“He can participate in school sports, which he never had the opportunity to do,” she said.
“He doesn’t even really know how to play soccer, or basketball, or volleyball.”
In a written statement, NLESD confirmed it had received the request from parents for Basque Memorial to become a K-6 school, and for older students to be sent to L’Anse au Loup.
“As the board was meeting this past weekend (in June), the request was added to the agenda and trustees subsequently passed a motion which enabled district staff to immediately begin the formal school review process,” read the statement.
This isn’t the first time in the past year Red Bay parents have asked for changes. In September 2018, Stone and other Red Bay parents protested for a student aide for the classroom. Stone says they received public backlash for that request, since Basque Memorial only has eight students. But Stone said the aide is necessary given the wide range of grades in the classroom.
Basque Memorial ended up getting the student aide, according to Stone.
If Basque Memorial remains open for junior-high and high-school students next semester, Stone is also worried about Brandon having to take long distance education (CDLI), to complete his grade 9 courses. She doesn’t think doing classes over a computer is a productive way for a student to spend his or her time.
“I don’t agree with it; I’ve never agreed with it when they first (introduced) it. I don’t think it’s healthy for any child to be over there for five hours a day sitting in front of a computer with a headset on.”